Popular publishing house, Readomania, is hosting a Crime Writing Festival which will go on for the month of May. Throughout the month, every Tuesday and Thursday, Readomania’s thriller authors will feature in live Twitter discussions at 8 PM and answer your questions on everything ‘thrilling’. You can learn more about the festival here: Readomania Crime Writing Festival 2019
The seventh session of the #ReadomaniaCrimeWritingFestival on @TwitterBooks was held at 8 PM today by author, Maitreyee Sanyal De (@MS_WritesALot). Here’s a guest post by the author. Maitreyee is the best selling author of the psychological thriller, Who Stole My Memories?
(Image Courtesy: Readomania)
Characters – we are surrounded by them, aren’t we? Your boss is a character, your partner, your kids even your parents, they are all unique characters who add their special flavour in your life. People think that people who are storytellers live in a bubble, cut off from the world, alone with their stories and characters. In truth, storytellers are observers. They observe the happenings around them, picking up cues that others might not notice. They read ordinary habits as nuances and repetitive behaviours as quirks. It is important to step back and observe life just as a third-party sometimes; be an omnipresent narrator with no stakes in hand. When these little elements are woven into a story, in the characters of the page, the narration comes alive. So, when a garish woman accosts you with her acid tongue, you can choose to get offended or it may trigger curiosity in your heart. “How did she become this way, what could be the story behind her?” That is how characters like “Sharon” (from “Who Stole My Memories?”) are born. That is what makes thrillers interesting, you don’t need to give every little detail of every little character; some can have a mystery of their own, making you wonder.
Short stories and novels both have a moral duty of telling stories, but novels bear the bigger burden of building up characters. There needs to be a journey for the characters that reveal the different shades. In the thriller genre, this task becomes even more arduous as you need to maintain the pace of the narration along with developing characters. You cannot go into lengthy monologues or detailed descriptions of physical appearances without sacrificing the tempo of the story. Instead, the characters need to be described in motion, in the way they speak or the way they react to situations. Another interesting element could be in tiny details like a row of gold teeth or a signature laugh to make a villain a bit more sinister. The idea is to just give an idea, not paint the entire picture. The joy of reading a book, especially thrillers, is to fill in the gaps with our imaginations. That is why, in case of book to screen adaptations, so many people swear by the book. That is because just by reading, by envisioning the characters, you are customizing the story to your own imagination. When someone else gives a face to YOUR characters, not many of us can digest that. In fact, when the first Dan Brown adaptation came forth, I had difficulty digesting Tom Hanks as Robert Langdon. I had an entirely different vision of the man. Didn’t you ever feel that?
When I started my debut novel, the protagonist was involuntarily shaped through my own character, as is the case for most debutants. The story even started off as my own, never intending of turning it into a novel and never dreaming of publishing it. As my psyche leans more towards short stories, in writing at least, I found that I was arriving at the end too quickly. It could have turned into just another one of the countless short stories that die a slow death in my diaries. However, somewhere I felt that there is more to tell in this story, more characters to explore. Initially I was simply skimming over the characters in my urgency to get to the end of the story. When I realised that there was true potential in all of these characters, I slowed down. Sat down with each of them and asked them their story (in my mind of course), believed their story, lived their story. The format of the story changed. It was no longer about me, it was about them. I had delved so deep into each of them that they seemed real to me, as real as a friend or a family member whom I have known for ages. I had met a humble grocery shop owner in Johannesburg who was my inspiration behind “Hussain”. After envisioning and creating his back story when I met him again in the shop, he was no longer that shopkeeper any more, he was Hussain to me. My fabricated name and story for him seemed more real than reality itself and that is what I hope even my readers can feel – the connect, the earthy realness of the characters.
To conclude, I would say that every writer has their own way of writing thrillers. Some have strong messages to convey, some want the action and thrill to take the centre stage while other focus on the details to make it as authentic and probable as possible. While I have tried to balance all these factors, somewhere I felt that it was the characters that lingered on with me. When I travel by public transport and look at the faces glue to mobile screens I wonder whether there’s an “Anu” among them? An “Aman”? What stories and secrets lie behind the cultured faces? Could there be a “Mosa” hidden behind one?
(Image Courtesy: Readomania)